It was the week before Christmas

It was the week before Christmas, and all was quiet in the office, apart from Jess who was frantically typing away to get work finished before the Christmas holidays began!

Getting into the spirit of thing! Excuse the poor quality photo.

I love Christmas, spending time with my loved ones, buying and wrapping gifts, baking delicious treats with mum (mmm mince pies) and of course putting the decorations up! It’s my first Christmas in my new home, so I had to buy Christmas decorations. Well, when I say buy, most of it was given to me as cast-offs from other people, not that I’m complaining though! What with moving out of my family home and doing up my house, paying bills, buying food to keep myself alive (why is food so expensive!) and buying Christmas gifts, my purse strings were tight with only a small budget for Christmas trimmings.

Me and Pip next to my Christmas tree. Again excuse the low quality image!

Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier each year. Gone are the days where you’d put the tree up on Christmas Eve (my grandparents used to do this when my mother was a child) and instead they’re up at the beginning of December, and I know of some who put them up in November! But at work, I start prepping for Christmas in September. As I work in marketing, you need to think ahead of time, poor preparation and all that, and as I’m the only person who does the marketing for the programme that I work for, well you could say I’m stretched come the festive period.

The week before Christmas is always a bit crazy at work, where my colleagues are starting to wind down, I’m working at top speed to get things finished; I had two newsletters to write and send out (every marketer knows the pain in the backside this can be!). I had my January social media posts to schedule (120 of them to be precise). I had a meeting to arrange (where attendees don’t respond to you, which is even more than frustrating!). Cover photos to design, blog posts to promote, reports to write, statistics to compile, and this is on top of interacting with our customers to be sure they’re happy. Oh, and did I mention all written work that gets sent out to the public needs to be written bilingually in both English and Welsh (which is a challenge in itself).

As you can imagine, I had sleepless nights of worrying if I’d get everything done in time and woke up countless times at crazy o’clock to write another task on my list of things to do before the Christmas break. You could say it’s my fault; I could have worked Monday (23rd of December) and between Christmas and New Year, putting less stress on myself to get four weeks of work pushed into 2. But, I love this time of year, and I’m a sucker for using the least amount of Annual Leave to get the most time off. Aka Christmas eve is a privileged day for us, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day are bank holidays, which means I get two weeks off and only use seven days of my annual leave, or should I say six days as I work flexi-time and have more than enough hours to use up (#winning!).

Thankfully Friday the 20th of December is here! My work is complete, and the most satisfying thing of all, I’ve set my work emails automatic replies to:

Diolch am eich neges, rwyf allan o’r swyddfa tan 06/01/2020. Byddaf yn ateb negeseuon cyn gynted a phosib.

Thank you for your message. I’m away from the office until 06/01/2020 and will respond as soon as possible.

Cofion gorau / Best wishes,

You might think from what I’ve written above that I don’t like my job, but the opposite couldn’t be truer. Sure it can be stressful, but when you get feedback from your customers saying that they enjoy using our website and appreciate the work that we do, then it makes it all worth while. I also really enjoy communicating and even chatting with our customers. I’m very much a ‘Think Customer’ and ‘Customer First’ kind of marketer. I also quite like the stress of a looming deadline, call me a deadline junky!

So now that my stress is behind me, I’m no longer the tired and irritable Jess but the happy elf spreading the Christmas joy, even in the gym!

Merry Christmas my lovely followers, I hope you have a nice break and of course, don’t get too merry this mad Friday!
Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Quirky Christmas Traditions

Don’t we all have those quirky family traditions that we do at Christmas that you don’t think is odd until you start talking about it with someone else? I know my family does, from Christmas Dinners to Christmas Morning silly string fights; you’ll be hearing all about them in this post.

A Turkey Dinner? I think not!

Enjoying our steak and chips on Christmas day!

Ah Christmas, a time for eating delicious treats of mince pies, chocolate and turkey dinners. When I say delicious, I’m only referring to the mince pies and chocolate; I frankly don’t enjoy turkey dinners or Christmas dinner (as some call it), I much prefer chicken and think turkey is way overrated (yes, I went there!). I also don’t like sprouts, parsnips, cauliflower (because why?!), cranberry sauce or bread sauce (I prefer my food to know who they are, you’re either bread or a sauce, that’s why I like oranges). The only food I’d be happy to eat off a Christmas dinner plat is… pigs in blankets, carrots, roast potatoes with a bit of gravy on top. So given that none of my family and I are keen on turkey dinners we’ve broken with tradition, and have instead, not a turkey, not a chicken, but steak and chips for Christmas dinner!

Who can be bothered to slave over a hot stove for hours on end only for half the stuff not to be eaten? Therefore my grandad made the executive decision of announcing that turkey dinner was off the menu until further notice replaced by steak, chips, fried onions, peas and dipped bread, which is a lot easier and a meal that everyone enjoyed (win-win for us!). So when anyone asked if I’d like to join them for a Christmas meal, aka as a social occasion (an introvert’s nightmare), I can legitimately say “no thank you, I don’t like Christmas dinner” (my introvert self can rejoice!). We’ve had steak and chips for Christmas dinner for years, I can’t remember once having turkey dinner at Christmas, so the tradition dates back a least 20 years and will be carried on for years to come, no doubt.

Don the bin bag, a battle is to be won!

Whenever I think of Christmas, I can’t help but think of when I, my brother and my aunty would have fights. “Fighting on Christmas?” I hear you say, but it’s nothing sinister, we weren’t boxing it out to win an imaginary belt and spend the rest of the day with a black eye. Instead, we used silly string. For those who don’t know what silly string is (or should I say was, I’m not sure if it’s still around), it’s like a liquid plastic that comes in an aerosol and looks like string (hence the name). I can always remember the smell of it, and it’s wet texture even to this day, and we haven’t played the game in over 15 years I’d say!

Every Christmas morning, my aunt and I would team up and “fight” against my brother, using only the silly string as a weapon. We had to create with our own armour, and the person (or team) with the least amount of silly string on them at the end of the fight would win. My parents and grandparents would be the judges, and the fight would take place in the living room, at around 10 am.

My borhter, my aunt and I after the silly string fight

As you can probably tell from the photo, my brother would always put time and effort into making his armour, often made out of boxes and decorated with a name like this one “The Terminator T-1000”. Us girls, however, made less of an effort, I remember one year we just wore black bin liners and this particular year we just wrapped ourselves in cling film which we could hardly move in (very useful armour right!)

As you can probably tell, we lost this particular year, and most years if I remember correctly!

Ah, the good old days of the 1990s (or was it the 2000s?)!

The skinny tree

The skinny tree in 2017

Our family has this one tress, an artificial tree which looks like it’s been dragged through a hedge backwards, it struggles to stand on its own without having the added support of a bit of string tethered to a curtain pole to keep it upright. It’s bare, so bare that you’re tempted to cover it in decorations but daren’t for fear of it toppling over.

The tree is my grandparents and is probably older than me, but it always gets put on display at Christmas time. It was once the main tree in the lounge of my grandparent’s place, where we still spend Christmas day. But as time went on the tree gradually looked worse for wear and has now been replaced by a nice white fluorescent one (ohhh snazzy!). But the skinny tree has not been forgotten and now takes centre stage in the hall, where there is an adequate curtain pole for tethering the tree. It’s nice to reminisce, but it’s a pain decorating the darn thing!

Baking with the Big Orange Bowl

It wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas cakes. I again, cannot stand Christmas cakes (so much dried fruit!), but I love baking them, not particularly the process of making them, but spending time with my mum and my gran.

We’d always bake the cakes in October, and I had the task of mixing the first part of the batter, the sugar and the butter before either my mum or my gran took over for the heavier ingredients. I’d then help add the ingredients to the mix or weighing out more ingredients. We always used grans recipe and her big old orange plastic bowl, which we still use to this day (sorry I didn’t include a photo of it!). The best part, of course, was licking the bowl!

I remember wrapping the outside of the tins in parchment paper (to stop the cake from burning) and mum always trapping my finger in the string when tying the knot to secure the paper in place. The smell of Christmas always filled the room when the cakes had finished baking. Mum and gran would them wrap them in parchment paper and keep them in a safe place for them to mature in time for December.

Mum, being the baker that she is, would decorate the cakes with piped and rolled icing, creating beautiful artworks which I always thought was a shame to cut into during the festive season. Our team of three has been a team of two for quite a few years, but one day maybe I can carry on this tradition with a mini Jess by my side, eager to learn (and lick the bowl) as I was growing up!